Who can honestly say they don't enjoy traces of herbs to enhance the taste of their favourite food, summer or winter? Yes, most of us do. In harsh winter climates we need to understand how to ensure we do have our favourite herb ready for use during those lovely summer months. What follows here is a guide with suggestions helping us choose some of the herbs we like best, and where to plant and care for them.

A good suggestion is to grow your winter herbs indoors, on the kitchen windowsill, for instance. There will be sunlight there and your herbs won't perish outside in the bitter cold. If you have a porch or good-sized balcony you can use bigger pots. A barn that gets enough sunlight, or even a small greenhouse area, are obvious choices too. Important is to protect your little (or not so little) garden from cold winds and snow. Some people even grow their winter herbs outside but they cover the plants with straw in very cold temperatures.

Care for your plants and ensure enough light, well-fertilised soil and just enough water. Don't ''drown'' your herbs, but don't let the soil dry out either. Whenever you grow your herbs in containers (in winter, for example) always ensure proper drainage: moist soil is good; not too much water; drain pans (even saucers for very small pots) are essential. A good tip is to avoid planting different herbs in the same pot; they thrive better in their own bit of soil. Also, it really is better to go to the local store for proper potting soil.

A few of our favourites

Rosemary

Ever popular with tomato in pasta dishes, or with meat (lovers of lamb often use rosemary to add that extra flavour), this herb likes full sun a few hours every day. Make sure your winter rosemary grows in well-drained, dry soil in well-circulated air. This herb can grow quite tall and wide, so it is advisable to keep cutting it back in limited indoor spaces.

Basil

This leafy herb does well inside (perfect on the windowsill) during those cold winter months as it's quite sensitive to frost and very low temperatures. It does like a lot of sunlight and moist, well-drained earth.

Thyme

Great for roasts and steak, aromatic thyme grows wide but not tall. It deserves a good, sunny spot. It is fine with minimal water; in fact, too much will rot its roots. It will do well outside in winter, provided you give it a sheltered spot. Inside the home it requires a very bright, sunny spot.

Parsley

Often added to salads or sandwich plates as garnish, this trusted herb which is rich in Vitamins A and C just flourishes in well-drained soil and lots of sunlight (remember this if you keep parsley in a pot). A sun-drenched patio or porch works well for parsley during the winter months.

Chives

This commonly used herb (popular in a variety of salads, or with fish and in soups) enjoys full, direct sun and moist, but well-drained soil.

Sage

Popular with all poultry and meat dishes; also mixed with other herbs for soup dishes. It does not grow tall, but wide: allow your potted sage enough room and full sunshine and warmth, whether it sits in the kitchen or outside on the porch.

Oregano

Another favourite with chicken, pasta and a choice of salads, this herb grows very well in good sunshine. Some varieties, however, do better in partial shady conditions. An example is the golden oregano. It looks good and does well in good potting soil in the kitchen.

Mint

A lovely, fragrant herb that is used for various reasons (in food, but also medicinally), it does well in full sunshine, but it can get out of hand. So make sure you cut the plant back quite regularly. Keep mint moist, but not wet.

Dill

This herb adds a tangy taste to pickled foods and fish dishes. Dill wants sunshine, and lots of it; therefore ensure that in winter you keep it out of the shade. In the kitchen, on the porch, in the garden: give it lots of sun!

Other popular herb varieties to be grown indoors during winter include tarragon, lemon balm and chervil.

Herb growing is not for everybody, but if it is an activity you enjoy, always make sure you understand weather conditions especially in very cold climates. Protect your winter herb garden and greet spring and summer with the first harvest of your well looked after winter herbs.